IV.  Events During the Reign of Senusret/Sesostris/Sewosret II (1897-1878)
Genesisi 39
A.    Seduced & Imprisoned
1.    Seduced: The Westcar Papyrus (magical texts) has the story of the Wax Crocodile in which the mistress of the house has an affair with one of Pharaoh's servants.  The woman is executed for her indiscretion.  Another parallel would be the Tale of Two Brothers.  This is considered either a short story or a didactic text. The point of the text is that the brother who was falsely accused by his sister in law was later vindicated by the gods.

2.    Imprisoned:

a.    Potiphar's Role: Ptoiphar appears to have been the keeper of pharaoh's prison (cf. 37:36 & 40:3f. [~yxi(B'J;h; rf;Þ/Sar ha††aBBäHîm]).  Why did he not expedite Joseph's execution.  Did he not believe his wife?  Was Joseph forgotten by Potiphar?  Did the jailer slow the proceedings down.

b.    Cell Mates: Joseph has two fellow prisoners (Chief Cupbearer &  Chief Baker).  The problem again is the problem of Hebrew equivalents of Egyptian terms and so identification is uncertain. The terminology is probably honorific and in both cases the men are probably advisors of some type.

c.    Release on Pharaoh's "Birthday"

(1)    Rosetta Stone: Mentions an old custom where a pharaoh would set prisoners free on his birthday.  Our problem is we do not know how old the custom was as there are no early references to the custom of relasing prisoners on this day or even celebrating it.  This later point causes real problems as this is not a thing that would slip "through the cracks."

(2)    The birthday of pharaoh (h[oêr>P;-ta, td<L<åhu ~Ay/yôm hulleºdet ´et-Par`ò)  as found in all translations of Gen. 40:20 is a disputed translation.  The problem is that the birthday of Pharaoh was not a celebration in early Egypt.  The resolution is to understand how semites use birth language for coronation language (Ps. 2; 110) and so it could be argued that what is being referred to in this passage is the celebration of the coronation of the Pharaoh (Festival of Appearance) which involved executions and setting free of prisoners. This festival is attested as early as the sixth dynasty.

C.    Joseph is Made Vizier and the Seven Years of Plenty
1.    Agricultural Concerns:
a.    "Sesostris II, c.1890 BC. Such Bedouin were no more than wandering Semites trading their products with Egypt, or going down there for sanctuary, or to buy corn, or water their flocks according to an age-old tradition referred to in the prophecy of Neferti. The story of Joseph reveals how some of these Asiatics may have arrived, sold into slavery for corn in time of famine, or offering themselves as menials in return for food and shelter. . . .Their children often took Egyptian names and so fade from our sight.  Asiatic dancers and a doorkeeper in the temple of Sesostris II are known, showing that these foreigners attained positions of importance and trust."    Cyril Aldrid, The Egyptians, Third Edition, Revised and Updated by Aidan Dodson, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1998), p. 142f.

b.    "After a co-regency of almost five years, Sesostris II succeeded his father on the throne. His reign of about fifteen years was to be eclipsed by that of his own successor, Sesostris III, the main prototype for the later mythical figure of Sesostris. It was, however, Sesostris II who first undertook the extensive exploitation of the Faiyum area (only a marshy zone during the Old Kingdom) for hunting and fishing, with Crocodilopolis as its regional centre. This project was not to mature fully until the reign of his grandson, Ammenemes III. The Faiyum was a huge oasis, about 80 kilometres south-west of Memphis, which offered the prospect of a completely new area of cultivable land. Sesostris II embarked on the construction of an irrigation system emanating from the Bahr Yussuf and flowing into the future Lake Qarun. He achieved this by building a dyke at el-Lahun and adding to it a network of drainage canals. Although the project was not finished until the time of Ammenemes III, the presence of these great building works in the Faiyum was no doubt the reason why the royal necropolis was moved first to Dahshur, in the reign of Ammenemes II, and next to el-Lahun. To the east of his funerary complexat el-Lahun, Sesostris II established a community of workers engaged on these important building projects. The site of this community, now known as Kahun, was the first 'artificial' town to be discovered in Egypt; another, better preserved, example of this type of settlement is the workmen's village of Deir el-Medina, which dates mainly to the Ramessid period. For a long time Kahun was the only relatively complete example of an Egyptian settlement, but the excavations at various other sites, such as el-Amarna, Balat and Elephantine, have begun to shed further light on domestic architecture."  Nicolas Grimal, A History of Ancient Egypt, (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers Inc, 1996), p. 166.

c.    "The reign of Amenemhat II's successor . . . was a time of peace and prosperity, when trade with the Near East was particularly prolific. There are no records of military campaigns during his reign; instead, his greatest achievement appears to have been the inauguration of the Faiyum irrigation scheme. A dyke was built and canals were dug to connect the Faiyum with the waterway that is now known as the Bahr Yusef. These canals siphoned off some of the waters that normally would have flowed into Lake Moeris, resulting in a gradual evaporation of waters around the edges of the lake, the canals extended the amount of new land; the reclaimed land was then farmed. This was a far-sighted scheme, and would have been unique for its time, if it were not for the fact that land was reclaimed with a similar system of dams and drainage canals in the Copaic Basin of Boeotia, in central Greece, in the Middle Helladic Period (c.1900-1600 BC).
    We do not in fact know how many of these irrigation works are to be ascribed specifically to the reign of Senusret II, but his connection with the overall revival of the Faiyum is probably indicated by the fact that he erected religious monuments at the edge of the region. The unique statue shrine of Qasr es-Sagha in the desert at the north-eastern corner of the Faiyum might date to around his reign by associated pottery. Like other buildings of his reign, however, this one was left undecorated and incomplete, thus contributing to the impression that he enjoyed only a short reign. The use of various sites in the Faiyum for royal pyramid complexes from this time onwards perhaps indicates the importance of the irrigation scheme, since it is usually assumed that the royal palaces of each ruler would have been built close to the ir funerary monuments."  Ian Shaw, The Oxford History ofAncient Egypt. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 164f.